The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed concerns about a proposal by a North Little Rock business to fill a 43-acre cypress-tupelo swamp on the Arkansas River just upriver from the Interstate 430 bridge, citing eagles’ nests and loss of fish and animal habitat.

Mike Mehaffy, owner of Thomco Inc. engineering and construction firm, filed what’s called a section 404 application with the U.S. Army Corps of engineers to fill the property. He wants to park heavy equipment there.

The public has until Jan. 30 to comment on the application, in which Mehaffy proposes to fill what the COE calls “mature forested wetlands” with 230,000 cubic yards of shale and clay material to bring it level with Crystal Hill Road. Mehaffy’s tract is 73 acres total.

The swamp is upstream from and similar to Rosenbaum Lake, the extensive cypress swamp visible to traffic on the I-430 bridge over the river, where a developer tried to build a marina a decade ago. That project was stopped by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which found that Arkansas had violated its own water quality standards by issuing a permit to the builder.

Mehaffy’s swamp curls behind property adjoining Rosenbaum Lake — which, coincidentally, the Thomco office is on — and turns into bottomland woods at a higher elevation. Water in the swamp was high and muddy on a recent visit; woodpeckers and jays called and darted about the cypress trees. Bur oak acorn caps 2 inches wide lay in the leaf litter under the trees in the upland area.

Mehaffy was paid $16,500 by the Corps of Engineers in 1970 for an easement on the tract as part of the construction of Murray Lock and Dam. The easement deed stipulates that he has the right to fill the tract above a certain elevation, and he has complained to the COE that the public notice did not mention that provision of the easement.

However, the COE’s regulatory office says the Clean Water Act of 1972 trumps the language in Mehaffy’s deed.

If the eagles’ nests are active, Fish and Wildlife biologist Lindsey Lewis informed Mehaffy, “there will be additional requirements for preventing take and disturbance of the eagles.” Lewis also noted that the application lacked required information on avoidance, minimization and mitigation of habitat.

Fish and Wildlife’s Tim Scott, project director, said the EPA has also already expressed concern over the application, as have private conservation groups. ECO (Ecological Conservation Organization), a Little Rock outfit, asked for a public hearing on the application, but Scott said the COE would not call a public hearing unless it needed more information to make a decision.

ECO President Rob Fisher and Vice President Dan DeVun, in a letter to the COE, wrote, “With today’s environmental crises and stresses surely the economic value of heavy equipment storage is not being weighed against the economic benefit of 43 acres of wetlands.”

Mehaffy, 71, said he was making the application now because he wanted to establish his family’s right to use the property before he got any older. He said he did not believe that filling the swamp would have any deleterious effect on wetlands downstream, including Rosenbaum. He also said filling wouldn’t cost him much because of an excess of fill dirt available in the area.

Mehaffy described himself as an environmentalist and noted that he was among the opponents to the marina project on Rosenbaum, where he’s seen ducks and other birds. He is a duck hunter and a member of state and national conservation groups.

Mehaffy also said he believed if conservationists knew the terms of his easement deed, they would not have objected.

The COE will inform Mehaffy of concerns raised during the public comment period after Jan. 30, and give him time to respond. If the permit is granted, Mehaffy will have to come up with a mitigation plan to add the number of acres lost to wetlands elsewhere.

To comment, call Scott at 324-5296; write Little Rock District Corps of Engineers Regulatory Office, P.O. Box 867, Little Rock, AR 72203-0867; or e-mail tim.scott@usace.army.mil.


Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Formal opposition emerges to Issue 3, the corporate welfare amendment

    It became apparent this morning that at least some money would spent in opposition to Issue 3, a massive corporate welfare proposal to allow the state to pledge unlimited tax money to private projects and to allow local governments to also give money to private business and chamber of commerce lobbyists, a practice that has been ruled unconstitutional currently.
    • Oct 22, 2016
  • Boozxman goes negative on Conner Eldridge

    Hmm. Nice ol' Republican Sen. John Boozman goes negative on upstart Democratic challenger Conner Eldridge? Feeling maybe a tiny bit of heat from Eldridge's attacks on Boozman as a nice guy, underachieving nonentity more interested in globe trotting than leading, not to mention a devoted supporter of Donald Trump?
    • Oct 22, 2016
  • Let the name float begin with Blanche Lincoln

    Blanche Lincoln hits a list of potential Clinton Cabinet appointees. I'd say it's too early to be counting chickens.
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • More »

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Coming to McLeod: Hursley and Simmons, land and dreamscapes

    Heads up for Thursday, Oct. 27: Matt McLeod Fine Art Gallery opens "Landscapes/Dreamscapes: At the Crossroads of Observation and Memory," an exhibition of drawings and paintings by Little Rock artists Jeanie Lockeby Hursley and  Dominique Simmons. 
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • Good Weather, outdoors and in (Elliott Earls)

    If you read this week's Arts and Entertainment feature on Good Weather Gallery, you are probably wanting to know a little bit more about the show opening tomorrow, Oct. 22: Elliott Earls' "Death of a Salesman."
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • White Water gets Southern Salted

    Lauren McCants, the Southern Salt Co. food truck founder and chef, is now serving food at the White Water Tavern Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday. On the menu: hamburgers and cheeseburgers (of course) as well as deep fried pork tenderloin sandwiches, deep fried chicken sandwiches, a smoked bologna and over-easy egg sandwich (real good, she says), chicken nachos and a special, like coconut curried chicken. There are vegetarian options, as well: Deep-fried tofu sandwiches, prepared with avocado and like a fish taco; and sweet potato and avocado tacos.
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Kanis development decried

    Fletcher Hollow wrong place for density, neighbors tell LR planners.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • Eligible voters removed from rolls

    Arkansas Times reporters contacted election officials around the state to see how they had handled flawed felon data from the secretary of state. Responses varied dramatically.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Real Republicans don't do pre-K

    Also, drifting away from trump, Hudson's downfall at ASU and more.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Visit Arkansas

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Logoly State Park dedicates new visitors center

Arkansas’s first environmental education state park interprets the importance of the natural world and our place within it.

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation